A Small Pilgrimage
We went to see family in the Sacramento area today. We drove the 150 miles down, but first stopped at my parents’ home to deliver some cookie dough from our school fundraiser. We got to see my nephews and niece, too. Since I was needed to lead the local service here on Thanksgiving Day – I missed the Thanksgiving meal with my family. Although my mom offered to send a “bag of stuffing” home with me. Yes, a bag.
We then headed up to Rocklin, about 25 miles NE, to Sarah’s mom’s home and met a new nephew. After a few hours visiting, we went over to see Sarah’s dad in Granite Bay, about 10 Miles E, and enjoyed another few hours of familial socializing. I wore my clerical collar, as I do most everyday, and it opened up some interesting conversations. Even among this somewhat familiar crowd of family and friends.
“High Church Episcopalian”
One new relative overheard one my children refer to me as a “priest.” This emboldened her to approach me and ask what corner of Christendom I was serving in. She hadn’t heard of married Catholic priests, so simply assumed that I was what she called, “high church Episcopalian.” She said a close relative was a “high church Episcopalian” and remembered her church fondly. “None of this shaking hands and guitars… church used to be just between you and God,” she lamented.
It is always a difficult balance of explaining how our church service is similar to the old Latin Catholic mass, while being distinctively Reformational. In this moment, I simply began with “imagine the Latin rite in English,” and she began to croon for the dignity of the Latin Mass. Jumping immediately to her childhood and Catholic school years. In this moment, the collar was a sentimental pathway to the memories of her faith when it was strong. “Back then it was so easy to just believe,” she remarked “I even wanted to be a nun.” Not fifteen minutes later, a different conversation is initiated on confession. How quickly these conversation go from the general questions to confessing painful sins where the Lord allowed me to say, “pardon and deliver you from all your sins” to a soul that needed it.
Brazilians and Malayali
We had also arranged to have dinner in Roseville (10 miles W) at a Brazilian Steakhouse with our friends Allen and Laura and their daughter. I’ve known Allen since high school and they’re one of our favorite families on the planet. Although we don’t get to see them as often as we would like. After dinner, our children caught the eye of a Malayali family at the next table. The Indian family had three children only slightly older than ours and my daughter became instant friends with their two daughters as only girls under ten-years-old can.
Again, the collar came up as their 9-year-old son asked, “Are you a priest?” I smiled and said in my most exaggerated sense of surprise, “How did you know?” The young man, proud of his discovery, pointed out my white collar. Allen’s wife Laura had actually taught one of the children during her time working at a local pre-school and after some conversations I remarked on the fact that the children all had Christian names. Their dad revealed that they were Catholic and I blessed his children.
We loaded up and headed home. The children fell asleep. Sarah fell asleep.